U.S. national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann has never been afraid to give young players a chance. That tendency looks set to continue as the U.S. roster for next week's friendly against the Czech Republic is littered with young performers.
The encounter amounts to the first match in the 2018 World Cup cycle, and it is Klinsmann's belief that the time is now to start taking a look at some of the younger elements of the U.S. player pool. All told there are 15 players age 24 and under, six of who are uncapped.
"When you start a new cycle, you want to see as many new players and young players breaking in as possible," said Klinsmann via a press release. "Obviously you always respect your established players and you always want to give them the space to continue their good work, but you also want to use that opportunity going forward to introduce young blood into the program, give them time on the training field, and you also want to give them time in a real game and prove a point. Show us what you have. Show us your talent, be confident and go for your next level. This is what comes up in the next couple games."
The accent on youth is down to a variety of factors. The opportunity to see the U.S. team's European-based players up close doesn't take place all that often, and with something of a reverse migration taking place between Europe and MLS in the last year, that has tended to make the ranks of players performing outside the U.S. a bit younger.
Among the players aiming to make their first international appearance are Southampton goalkeeper Cody Cropper, Fulham midfielder Emerson Hyndman, Borussia Dortmund II attacker Joe Gyau, F.C. Utrecht forward Rubio Rubin, Club Tijuana defender Greg Garza and Stanford University and U.S. U-23 forward Jordan Morris, who clearly counts as the biggest surprise call-up of the group.
"We have watched Jordan through our Youth National Teams and in the Development Academy for the last couple of years, and he is a very promising player," said Klinsmann. "We saw him during our two weeks at Stanford for the World Cup preparation camp, and also from his play with U-23 team in the Bahamas, and we felt like this was a good opportunity to introduce him to the Senior Team."
With the MLS stretch run set to begin, Klinsmann preferred to allow his domestic players to remain with their clubs. The U.S. manager called in just one MLS-based player, that being Real Salt Lake Nick Rimando.
With Everton keeper Tim Howard just starting his one-year hiatus from the national team, Klinsmann has stated that he intends to have an open competition between Rimando and Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who is also on the roster.
That will allow Klinsmann to monitor the form of both players, though Guzan's Premier League pedigree figures to give him the edge. In addition to Guzan and Rimando, the U.S roster does contain some experienced players, with a total of 10 performers having participated in the recently concluded World Cup.
Included in that group is defender-midfielder Geoff Cameron, who was called up despite sustaining an abdominal injury on Wednesday in Stoke City's 3-0 win over Portsmouth in the Capital One Cup.
Among the other World Cup veterans on the current roster are Sunderland forward Jozy Altidore, Borussia Moenchengladbach defender Fabian Johnson, Nantes midfielder Alejandro Bedoya, and Bayern Munich attacker Julian Green, scorer of the lone U.S. goal in the round of 16 defeat to Belgium.
The match against the Czechs will also present several players with an opportunity to get back in the national team reckoning on a more consistent basis, including Stoke City midfielder Brek Shea, Puebla defender Michael Orozco, as well as Bolton Wanderers defender Tim Ream. Ream's last appearance for U.S. occurred back in 2011 against Panama in the group stage of the Gold Cup.
Goalkeepers: Cody Cropper (Southampton), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
Defenders: John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Greg Garza (Club Tijuana), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Michael Orozco (Puebla), Tim Ream (Bolton)
Midfielders: Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Emerson Hyndman (Fulham), Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt), Brek Shea (Stoke City)
Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Joe Gyau (Borussia Dortmund II), Jordan Morris (Stanford), Rubio Rubin (Utrecht), Bobby Wood (1860 Munich)